Day 14 July 19 Delta Junction to Fairbanks

moose north of Delta Junctionrain and gray on the Richardson HighwayWhen we left Delta Junction this morning, it was raining hard, but within minutes of getting on the road, we were treated to our first moose of the trip.  She was running along the road, but then conveniently stopped for me to take her photo.  Along this part of the highway, moose are a constant problem, or I should says cars are the problem, with hundreds of moose killed every year by motorists.

the Fairbanks Visitor CenterOur drive to Fairbanks was short, and we arrived in time to spend the afternoon visiting two places on our list of must-see sights.  2 Morris Thompson Visitor Center-6The Fairbanks Visitor Center is at the Morris Thompson Cultural Center in downtown Fairbanks along the Chena River. The display gardens are wonderful, filled with the huge flowers and vegetables that thrive in the long daylight.  The center itself is filled with interesting and lovely displays, including painted dioramas and artifacts from the area.  We really enjoyed it.

3 Museum of the North-5greenhouse at the University of AlaskaWe then traveled across town to the northwestern hill above the river to the dramatic Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  This university is in the perfect place for studying polar climates, and for materials testing in climatic extremes. The Museum itself is fantastic, with a controversial architecture that represents the landscapes of the north, tremendous displays from all the regions of Alaska, and a gallery dedicated to Alaskan art.  There are hourly movies scheduled, one that we are sorry we missed was called “Dynamic Aurora”.  These cost an extra $5, but it was more the time than the money that kept us from attending.  We also knew that we were going to see another aurora presentation at the Ice Museum in town, so thought we could skip this one.

the mummified steppe bison, Blue BabeWe spent enough time there to get “museum fatigue”, with our eyes and brains overloaded with tons of information and our legs and feet tired from all the standing around reading rather than actually moving.  I loved seeing “Blue Babe”, the steppe bison killed by something with teeth that may have been a lion and then preserved in the cold climate with skin and hair that could be studied by scientists for clues about his existence.

the outhouse of the northWe had already decided to stay at Pioneer Park in their pavement parking lot for $12 no hookups, but with a nice row of shade trees behind us. It seems we managed to arrive in Fairbanks during their Gold Rush Days and the parking lot was full.  I still laugh at the fact that we never managed to actually go inside the park to see all the stuff there that was drawing the crowds.  It was a noisy place, and for the first time on the trip, I used my ear plugs to sleep.  Once the shades were drawn and the ear plugs were in, we could have been anywhere!

After a bit more exploration of Fairbanks we found out that we could have joined the many RV’s at the east side WalMart for free and had access to shopping and probably less noise.  Also, just up the block from where we were parked was a lovely, quiet state park, with access to the river and hookups for a bit more money.  Still, it was kinda fun being in the parking lot directly across from the famous Salmon Bake.

3 Museum of the North-17This is supposedly another great thing to do in Fairbanks, and I had my heart set on doing it.  Mo agreed to the spendy $32 per person, but she wasn’t in the mood to do the ‘all you can eat’ thing and was going just for the ambience since I didn’t want to do it alone.  After our museum visits, we came back home and I decided to go read the blogs and then checked in with TripAdvisor about the bake.  I am sooo glad that I did. Even though some folks may have enjoyed it, the reviews were less than stellar, and we decided  to skip it.  Lots of money saved on that one, I think, and we won’t have to try to walk off all the unneeded calories.

3 Museum of the North-15While we watched the cruise buses and Salmon Bake blue bus shuttles started rolling in, one after the other, unloading people by the dozens.  The bake is offered from 5 to 8 and there must have been hundreds of people in that place.  No wonder the food is reputed to be cold and the service non-existent.  Remember, this observation is rumor only and not my personal experience.

I also can’t believe that I never took a single photo of our parking lot campsite or the mine entrance to the Salmon Bake.  I guess that may have been because it was actually pretty warm out there, and there were so many people that we would quickly retreat to the safety of the MoHo when we arrived.

CaptureMiles traveled today: 95

Road condition: excellent paved highway

The rest of the photos for this day are linked here


Day 13 July 18 Boundary Boondock to Delta Junction

settling in for the eveningOnce again I have been awake since 2 or so, unable to sleep even with the shades drawn and the MoHo dark in spite of the light.  It has been raining all night, even with the predictions of sunny skies in Fairbanks to come.  I hope they are right and this rain is going to leave us.  Folks at the visitor centers are complaining about the lack of summer this year, with rain and cold temperatures in an area usually blessed with warm sunny skies. I expected dreary, chilly, rainy days on this trip, tried to prepare myself mentally for that possibility, but looking outside at the socked in skies still isn’t any fun.

AlaskaWe settled in last night at the Smith’s Green Acres RV Park just north of Delta Junction.  The owner is an interesting sort, but I think most folks around here tend to be interesting. We got a nice long pull through site with shade, just what we need.  No cable tv but one channel comes in on the antenna.  Probably irrelevant, since tv hasn’t been any kind of priority lately.  I do have internet, but with an irritating glitch in the setup that requires me to repeatedly go back to the park owner’s advertising page and log in.  Happens in the midst of uploads which doesn’t make me very happy! This park has a Good Sam discount and none other, and after considerable bantering and conversation, we got a ten percent discount for Mo’s retired military status.  Still cost 37.50 for one night of hookups.

the road is potholed rutted dirt most of the wayWe originally planned to stay at the Family Camp at Eilson AFB, but decided that maybe we wanted to spend our two Fairbanks nights closer to town.  Thanks to CoolRV’rs on the road, we are now going to check into the City Park and dry camp right on the river close to town. There are a ton of folks traveling through Alaska right now, and the biggest group headed up by Dennis and his huge 500 lens, may be passing us or already has passed us.  I have followed their blogs and learned a lot from their recommendations. They were in Fairbanks a couple of days ago. The owner at the park here said that many folks are actually heading out of Alaska right now, as it starts to get a bit darker and the temperatures cool off. 

At this junction marking the official end of the Alaska Highway, we have yet to mark the halfway point of our trip, with just under 3,000 miles so far and another 4,000 to go. Our costs are running close to $175 per day, but hopefully that will decrease a bit as we spend a bit more time at each stop.

Taylor Hw Day 13_1666Our travels yesterday took us from our boondock site near the eastern Alaska boundary, through the historical Chicken Creek mining district and the town of Chicken.  We stopped in for a look at all the chicken related memorabilia and were amazed at how many RV parks had popped up around the original one building town. It’s beautiful around here, and gold still brings in prospectors hoping to find that magical pay dirt.  We saw another caravan of 20 RV’s parked in the lot with a sign proclaiming the leaving time.  I have no idea whether they were going east or west, but we sure were glad we missed them on the road. I am not quite sure why someone would choose to drive this gorgeous, wild, open land in a pack, but I suppose it must work for some.  Not for us!  We are a couple of independent women who really want to run our own timetable!

more rain as we drive through the Taylor Complex fire areathe Taylor Complex fire burned 1.5 million acres in 2004As we continued south and west from Chicken, we were alone on the road, the very rough, potholed, wet road.  The rain came and went, the views opened up in some areas, made more open by the huge Taylor Fire Complex that burned 1.5 million acres in 2004.  Judy said she was here during those fires.  I can’t imagine how awful that must have been!  In spite of sporadic rain, we have been blessed with gorgeous, fresh, clear air throughout this entire trip.  No smoky fire haze obscuring the vistas, no smog, no pollution from anything at all.  I think that may be one of my most favorite things so far.  Air.  Pure. Clean. Air.  It is one of the reasons I love living at Rocky Point.

a very cloudy day so no view of the mountainsStill, in spite of the guidebooks, the signs, the warnings, we didn’t see one single animal.  In the wildest part of our trip, through the Forty Mile Wilderness, home of the biggest herd of Caribou in Alaska, filled with bear and moose, fox and lynx, we didn’t see anything at all.  So be it.  According to all the photos on the blogs, there are moose just about everywhere from here on out.

Taylor Hw Day 13_1711Arriving in Tok, we stopped at the very wonderful visitor center to pick up a big pile of Alaska brochures for all the places we planned to travel. This park was highly recommended by a very nice woman at the center, so we set our sights for Delta Junction.  After cooking some burgers on the grill, we drove back to town to take the obligatory photos of the Highway end post, and found a car wash so that we could see out the windows of the Tracker.  Before going home, we drove a bit north to check out Rika’s Roadhouse at the Big Delta State Historical Park.

Taylor Hw Day 13_1726The park had one of the most lovely displays of historical buildings that we have seen thus far. The Roadhouse was initially developed in 1904 but it wasn’t until 1917 that John Hajdukovich  from Yugoslavia hired Swedish born Rika Wallen to run his business. Rika made the roadhouse something different than ordinary, with lush gardens, cows, sheep, and poultry, allowing her to serve fresh vegetables, eggs, milk, and meat to her customers.

Taylor Hw Day 13_1729The Roadhouse was also a center of communications, and pivotal as a transportation hub for prospectors traveling along the Tanana River to Fairbanks. With the completion of the Alaska Highway in the 40’s, the population of Big Delta moved to the junction of the Alcan and Richardson highways, signaling the end of an era.  Rika’s closed soon after that. Walking the beautiful grounds and gardens was a lovely way to end our first day in Alaska.

Taylor Hw Day 13_1736

The rest of the photos for this day are here